Sarah: Reading to Richmond our longest paddle

Part One – Saturday

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We know that one of the big challenges of the race will be Lake Laberge which is 30 miles long. That’s a long way to go with no flow, longer than we had done so far. To get confidence we planned out longest paddle – from Reading to Richmond 60 miles over 2 days.

The extra kit of tent, sleeping bags, cooking kit and food for day 2 really made a difference and portages were out. More traffic on the river meant there was more chance of getting through locks without having to wait too long.

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As we set off heavy rain fell, for about an hour, what a pleasant start to our day. It’s all good practice as there is no controlling the weather on the Yukon. It can go from sun to heavy rain very quickly.

Spirits were up when we reached St Patricks Stream breaking off the Thames, skipping a lock and the sun came out for a minute. We were on the look out for that turkey, but there was no sign of it. I wonder if that was Easter Sunday dinner?

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Our backwater fun was over soon enough and we were back on the Thames. Heading past Paul Daniels’ house we kept a look out, but the return of the bad weather was keeping him inside. We soon reached Bisham. Just a couple of trips ago this was the end of our day’s paddling, but we still had 4 hours to go from here! It was slow going – debris was just floating and not moving downstream. With absolutely no flow we knew that doing 35 miles was going to be a harder day than we expected.

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At Maidenhead we worked out there had been a misunderstanding on the amount of drinks we had with us. In brief, I had packed none. A co-op was spotted from the bank and as the day was getting warmer, a quick dash was made. Still a way to go.

We slowly wound our way past Windsor Racecourse, joined by large tour boats. As we try to cut off a corner, I may have steered us a little close to one. Whoops.

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Romney Lock, so close. The portage here isn’t good and we lost time locking through, but the thought of a tricky portage would move us to tears. Once through, we were on the final run. By now Dan has gone very QUIET and is really giving it some welly. Not a good sign. By 7pm we get to Old Windsor Lock and the campsite he is pooped and so am I. No time to stop though. Everything has to be carried to the campsite, the tent put up, sleeping mats inflated, sleeping bags put out, us washed and changed.

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It had been a tough day but, we got there, in our short and wide Pakboat. The sleek lines of the racing canoe that’s waiting for is in Whitehorse must help a bit.

Part Two – Sunday

I hate cold camping. 3am and I need the loo, can I avoid it, no. Apparently I made rather a lot of noise, waking Dan up who thought badgers had invaded our tent. Proper sleep came just as it was time to get up and the jets from Heathrow started going overhead. We thought that camping would mean that we could make an earlier start in the morning – nope.

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We were on the water at 9am, heading past Runnymede – it was nice to see the skiff club out. This was a section that is becoming increasingly familiar but boy was it windy today.

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There were some fantastic jet patterns in the sky. Perhaps trying to make up for our early awakening.

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Towards the end of the day we passed Hampton Court Palace,all of the pleasure cruisers out on this stretch which was busy in the sunshine. This was one of the few locks that we portaged as it has some lovely rollers to make getting to the other side of the lock so much easier on the back.

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Compared to Saturday, Sunday was a more relaxed day. Less distance to go although we still wanted to be home in good time. However muscles were aching and we may have been going off this paddling lark a little bit. That must mean it’s time to crack out the quiche. We love a good quiche, it makes everything a lot better. Looks like I’ll be making quiche when we get to Canada unless we can find some that meets the standard there.

One of the big things we are playing with at the moment is what food keep us going, what brightens the spirits and what we want to avoid. Pasta and meatballs is still a winner!

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We made it, aching but pleased, but the next day Dan’s arm looked rather broken. Its good to know that we can make the distance but now we need to make it so we can make the distance while staying ready to paddle for another 3 days!

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